North Korea is facing a food shortfall of up to 700,000 tons this year, placing some 6 million people - many of them children - at risk of severe malnutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Thursday, according to dpa."More than 6 million vulnerable people are expected to face food deficits if the current food insecurity problem continues," said FAO Assistant Director General Hiroyuki Konuma, who visited NorthKorea from Tuesday to Thursday. North Korea's current food crisis is a spillover from 2010, when the country suffered a 600,000-ton deficit of its staple foods - rice, corn and potatoes - forcing the government to cut its subsidized food rations from 570 grams per person per day to 370 grams, half the daily requirement. The World Food Programme (WFP) in May issued an emergency appeal for 310,000 tons in food aid, of which donors have pledged to supply 170,000 tons. Only 30,000 tons have been delivered. The food shortages have led to severe malnutrition, especially visible among North Korean children under the age of five. "It is important to understand that even before this particularly tough year, one-third of all children under five were malnourished orstunted," WFP spokesman Marcus Prior said. In August, because of lack of supplies, the WFP was only able to reach 1 per cent of the children desperately in need of food aid. It has since been able to increase its assistance because of the arrival of food shipments, although commitments have fallen short for their 209-million-dollar emergency operation. "Our operation is only 30-per-cent funded at the moment," Prior said. Major donors have included the European Union, Russia and South Africa. WFP acknowledged that the famine in Somalia had sidelined the North Korean crisis. "There is no doubt that at the moment the Horn of Africa is the donor priority," Prior said. North Korea, one of the world's last remaining communistcountries, is capable of producing only 4.3 million tons of food crops per year, whereas the country's demand is 5.4 million tons. The government had planned to buy at least 300,000 tons of corn from China and India this year, but a doubling in world prices has forced it to reduce imports to only 180,000 tons.Unless donors step up, the FAO predicts the country will suffer a food shortage in 2011 of 650,000 to 700,000 tons. "And if this goes on we are afraid that next year a more severe situation may happen," Konuma said.The FAO recently launched a 5-million-dollar programme to improve North Korea's food productivity but results will need years to take root.